A former employee of the Taney County Assessor’s Office is turning whistleblower, accusing Assessor Susan Chapman of multiple instances of unethical behavior.  

Former Deputy Assessor Andy Adams says Chapman used personal access on the MLS real estate service to obtain information for county assessments that she shouldn’t have as a county assessor; asking employees to change assessment of properties beyond normal procedures; that she allowed assessments that raised 2021 tax bills to be processed despite knowing the calculations of the tax were too high because of improper calculations; and that she made disparaging comments about an area developer to a third-party.

Adams spoke with the Branson Tri-Lakes News after he stated he was fired on Friday, Oct. 22. Adams brought a stack of documents to the newspaper outlining what he called a pattern of unethical behavior by Chapman. Adams says that when Chapman found out he had the documents, and that he intended to run for her position in 2024, she first demoted him on Friday, Oct. 15, from deputy assessor to field appraiser, before firing him on Oct. 22.

Adams began by addressing information in a story the Branson Tri-Lakes News published on Oct. 20 (“Taney County Assessor’s budget drawing scrutiny”) regarding the assessor’s budget. Chapman was questioned by the Taney County Commission about a report from Taney County Auditor David Clark regarding her hiring of additional staff, and other spending, was going to cause her department to have an account balance of $85 in December 2022.

Adams said that he was in the room when Clark told Chapman that she did not have the money in her budget to hire two additional employees. Chapman told the Taney County Commissioners at their Oct. 18, meeting Clark told her she could hire two people.

“I sat there and witnessed David Clark tell her more than one time ‘you do not have the money to hire employees,’” Adams said. “David Clark has done a wonderful job keeping her posted on the money.”

Adams says that Chapman lied to the commissioners regarding her statement that Clark had told her she couldn’t hire four employees, but that she could hire two.

“That was a lie,” Adams said. “That was a bald-faced lie, because I listened to [ Clark] tell her that she did not have the money to hire. She had told me ‘well, I’m going to add two more people next year. They say I don’t have the money but I know I do.’”

Clark confirmed to the Branson Tri-Lakes News that Chapman lied to the Taney County Commissioners when she said he told her she could hire two people. He also said he did not recall her making a request for four employees as Chapman told the commission.

“No, I never told her that,” Clark said. “I told her, when I did her numbers in August, that ‘I don’t see how you can afford an additional two people.’ I told the Commission that, and I told payroll that. She’s asking for more people than have been in there for years. I can’t see the funds.”

Taney County Presiding Commissioner Mike Scofield expressed disappointment that Chapman had been caught lying to the commission, because he said transparency is one of the biggest things he has tried to bring to the county government.

“Because of [Chapman’s actions], the more things are going to be questioned,” Scofield told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “I try to see the good in people and believe what I’m told, and I don’t say a whole lot, but once I found they’ve not been truthful, then it’s hard to listen to them without questioning them.”

Adams said after the Branson Tri-Lakes News article appeared, Chapman sent her employees home to use their “comp time” as a way to combat projected shortfalls due to additional employees.

“That was her solution to her money shortage,” Adams said. “Making them draw their comp, she thought balanced her budget.”

Two issues raised by Adams of alleged misconduct by Chapman center on the assessor using her personal account on the real estate Multi-Listing Service to attempt to adjust values of properties.

In the first instance, Adams says that Chapman asked county appraisers to change the assessments of properties by handing them print outs from the MLS using her account. Normally, county staff use a program called the Hunnicutt Cost System to determine the valuation of properties, so that every property is judged in an equal manner.

“Her words weren’t ‘I want you to change to this dollar amount,’ but she said ‘see what you can do to get the appraised value up to what the sales deal was,’” Adams said. Two other employees of the Taney County Assessor’s Office confirmed to the Branson Tri-Lakes News that Chapman made the requests, and that they refused to do what Chapman asked them to do.

Adams also said that Chapman was using her personal account MLS to obtain the sale price of properties that were not self-reported to the auditor’s office, an allegation confirmed to the Branson Tri-Lakes News by Chairman Jeff Reynolds of the Taney County Board of Equalization.

Reynolds said that it was a violation of the rules of the MLS for Chapman to be using the information obtained through her personal account to make assessments for the county. Reynolds noted that in Missouri someone who buys a home does not have to report the cost paid for the home to the assessor, so the information she received would not be available to most county assessors in the state.

“I told her that she can’t do that, that it’s against the rules of the MLS,” Reynolds told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “She said she had an account, so she could. She kept bringing into the board print outs from the MLS with her picture on it, meaning it came from her personal account.”

“When someone purchases a home, they’ll get something in the mail from the assessor’s office asking for information about the purchase,” Reynolds said. “One of those is the price paid for the home. If you provide that, an assessor can use that against you in an appeal and I’ve seen it done. I tell people not to put that information on the form if they fill it out.”

Adams claims in June 2021, Chapman forced him to change the valuation of property that is owned by Chapman’s ex-husband Amir Jafari. The property is located at 709 S. Business 65 in Branson, and the structure is occupied by Lost Boys Barber Company. Adams said he had marked the property as completely commercial, because the entire building was being used either for the business or storage for the business. 

“I changed the property to 100% commercial [from 50/50] and she came in two days later after I made the change, how I do not know unless she was monitoring my work or something, and she said ‘change that back to half commercial, half residential.’” Adams said. “I said ‘it’s a commercial building.’ She tells me the upstairs is an apartment, and I said ‘I don’t give a crap. They’re storing it with stuff. It’s not being used for residential, it’s being used for commercial storage.’ She ordered me to change it back.”

Beacon, the online system that records county property records, lists the owner of the property at 709 S. Bus. 65 as Jafari. Under valuation, it shows the improvements as $32,323 commercial, $31,268 residential. The land is completely taxed as commercial. Based on the formula that commercial property is taxed at 32%, while residential is 19%, the change made by the assessor reduced the assessed total of the property by just over $4,000.

The property in Branson is zoned Neighborhood Commercial, so a business on the bottom floor and a residence on the top floor is a permitted use for that building. However, Adams reiterated that when he did the assessment the entire property was used for business use or storage. Attempts to reach Jafari by the Branson Tri-Lakes News were unsuccessful.

Adams says that Chapman knowingly mischaracterized new condo construction classification to assess a higher tax rate than what had been ordered by the Board of Equalization. 

He said the board had stated that a condo owned by individuals who only have one condo property would be assessed at 75% residential and 25% commercial. The decision from the board was made because of the number of people appealing valuations stating that they would allow children or friends to use the condo, and therefore it was not always used for commercial purposes.

Adams stated Chapman, even though in the legal description of the properties they were referred to as condos, ordered the properties to be listed as motels, meaning they would be taxed at a 100% commercial assessment, despite knowing the BOE decision.

Adams said that Chapman knew of a mistake that was made on multiple commercial properties involving the index used in appraised values and told staff to pretend they didn’t know the commercial properties were calculated using the residential index of 2.58 rather than the commercial index of 2.35.

(The index is a factor that is multiplied into the square footage, base area, and other factors determined by the field appraisers to help determine a structure’s appraised value. The higher the index, the higher the appraised value, and thus the more a property owner would have to pay in taxes.)

Adams says the Board of Equalization had ordered all commercial properties to be reset to make sure they were at the 2.35 index. However, some commercial businesses were not by the closing of the books for 2021 tax, meaning they paid higher taxes than they should have paid on their property because of the miscalculation. 

Adams stated he spoke with Kyle Ulrich, the office’s software provider, to make sure going forward all commercial properties were equally given the 2.35 index. He said Chapman then lectured him in front of his coworkers for taking the initiative to solve the problem.

Adams also told Branson Tri-Lakes News recent testimony made  by developer Steve Redford before the Taney County Commission concerning disparaging comments Chapman is accused of making about properties he owns are true.

“We were talking about Redford, and she told him point blank according to what she told [a co-worker] and I, that he was complaining because she popped her mouth off to Dan Boone,” Adams said. “She told him that the house he was buying if he bought them off Redford they were cheap and they weren’t insulated. Well, Boone tells Redford about it and Redford comes in [to the Commission] and raises holy heck. 

“Then she told [my co-worker] and I that she told him that because we came in and said the house didn’t have insulation on it. We didn’t even discuss that with her. She threw us under the bus and said ‘well, the appraisers came in.’ Well, Redford told the commission that we were not certified appraisers, and we’re not, but that’s our title and our position. Redford told the story word-for-word what [Chapman] told my [co-worker] and I, so he’s not lying.”

Realtor Dan Boone confirmed to Branson Tri-Lakes News that Assessor Chapman told him the properties he was looking to buy from Redford did not contain insulation.

“When we met in person, she told me the homes didn’t have any insulation,” Boone said. “She said ‘make sure yours has insulation.’ I said “Susan, they all have insulation. Where are you hearing that?’ She said ‘well, my appraisers are telling me the homes don’t have any insulation.’”

Redford told the commission he planned to file a lawsuit against Chapman for slander. Branson Tri-Lakes News attempted to reach Redford or his attorney Karl Finkenbinder for comment, but was unsuccessful in reaching either man for comment.

When contacted by the Branson Tri-Lakes News, Chapman initially would not answer questions, but referred the reporter to Taney County Attorney Travis A. Elliott of Ellis, Ellis, Hammons & Johnson. Elliott said that he had not spoken to Chapman regarding the situation as of Tuesday morning, but that he would try to contact her before press time.

Assessor Chapman then called the Branson Tri-Lakes News Tuesday just prior to press time, and sent a press release that you can read below unedited:

The Taney county assessor recently completed courses on Mass appraisal thru the IAAO, International Association of Assessing Officers. Ms. Chapman completed 33.5 hours in the Fundamentals of Mass Appraisal on September 16th, 2021. The course covered single-property appraisal vs mass appraisal, data requirements and analysis, statistics, use of assessment ratio studies in mass appraisal, and modeling of the three approaches to value. 

The course is a fulfillment of the requirements by the state. Assessors are not required to take the final exam but Ms. Chapman feels she owes the citizens of Taney County proof that she is diligent in her task of equitably assessing the county. 

In February of 2021, the Assessor completed 30 hours in IAAO course 102- Income approach to valuation. Ms. Chapman tested and received certification in this course of study. The income approach had not been regularly in use in the assessor office and it was instrumental in valuing commercial hotels and Motels as it took into account the Covid year of 2020, giving relief to those tax payers. 

Ms Chapman is also a Real Estate broker and just completed 3 hours in Ethics training thru the National Association of Realtors. She is in good standing with her realtor board, The Greater Springfield board of Realtors. Assessors do not use the MLS to value property. County property is valued using cost appraisal software and ratio studies.  This is not the same as methods used by single property appraisers and this is reflected in total value that you see for you property on the tax bill. Please note the assessor’s value versus the value that you could sell your property for today in the open market. 

The current real estate and personal property bills are now being sent to Taney County citizens. Thanks to the school superintendents who lowered their levy in the recent reassessment year, after the state mandate to calibrate our valuing system in the Assessor’s office. This move should have seen most Real Estate tax bills go down this year.

Please note that the Assessor held the personal property value of Trucks and vehicles at their 2020 values due to the unprecedented rise in value nationally. This would mean that your taxes should reflect a stabilized assessment and billing this year. It is hoped that vehicle values will go back to historical depreciation in the future and not the meteoric rise that we saw this year.

When speaking with a reporter, Chapman reiterated she belongs to the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors, not the Tri-Lakes Board of Realtors, because her mentor in the real estate business belonged to that entity.

She said that she checked with that entity when she became the Taney County Assessor. She said they provided her with a list of assessors in other county’s who are also real estate agents.

“They just asked that I don’t use it to put values, and I do not,” Chapman said. “The only time I used it, and that was for the BOE, was for the Branson Condo Hotels and things in that area. Before I became the assessor, I knew they had lost a lot of value. We’re not talking $1,000.  They were over-assessed by $30,000 to $60,000. That didn’t seem fair to me, so I did use [MLS].

“What I can use MLS for is to make a model, and any that was in a 500 square foot range or below, I gave it one value. Anything in the 501 to 600, I gave it this value. I brought everybody down. Most people should be happy when they get their bills.”

Chapman said she made sure she was allowed to use it.  

“I am allowed, and I checked with lawyers, there is no law in Missouri about not using MLS,” Chapman said. “My board knows I’m not going to use it for bad purposes. It is not my intention to hurt anyone, I just want to help taxpayers, I just want to be fair.”

Chapman said she does not use her position for personal reasons.

“I don’t retaliate against people,” Chapman said. 

Chapman also said that she uses the MLS for “mass appraisal” because she “cannot do a single appraisal.”

“It is not to use it for valuation,” Chapman said. “You will find if you go along with my staff someday that they don’t even know about those numbers. That is something I look at and I rarely get involved in what the final value is.”

Chapman said she is trying to get a panel together to look at land values.

“We need to make that more equitable among people,” Chapman said. “There’s poor neighborhoods and richer neighborhoods, but there are some people who are unfairly burdened, I think. Some of the people with lesser value homes are paying more than they should, and that’s what I want to catch. I want to make it equitable for everyone.”

She said the county uses the Honeycutt system, which she called “outdated,” and that she cannot do anything to values until 2023.

(4) comments

William B

Does it really surprise anyone. This position steals people time and labor in the form of taxes. Most states do not have personal property tax. This is a department that should be lost all together. Nothing but shallow corrupt politicians that want power and your money.

Angie B

Sir, every state has real estate tax. Here is a link to check out. https://www-crowdreason-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.crowdreason.com/blog/property-tax-comparison-by-state?amp_gsa=1&amp_js_v=a6&hs_amp=true&usqp=mq331AQKKAFQArABIIACAw%3D%3D#amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&aoh=16354054274653&csi=1&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.crowdreason.com%2Fblog%2Fproperty-tax-comparison-by-state

William B

That is right all the Assessor does is real estate tax.. good work bringing this to light Angie.

Angie B

That link also goes on to tell you how the other states do the personal property tax. Trust me they all still have personal property tax it's just done differently. My boyfriend said it's horrible! Other state that don't have personal property tax, well they still get you in the end.

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